Written by Kevin Heffernan and Emily Reynolds
Title Image: Kyla Kegler Performance

From the first time we stepped foot inside an old high school in Medina to go classroom to classroom, auditorium to gymnasium, each with its own art, style vibe, we were enthralled with PLAY/GROUND. As we have always said, art parties are the best parties and PLAY/GROUND lifted the bar, especially when it came to the ART. Installations from artists from the region and all around the state just blew us away.

COVID this and COVID that… This year, PLAY/GROUND isn’t asking you to enjoy virtually. They’ve taken the show outside where you can immerse yourself once again with as much distance as you need. As a media sponsor to this year’s event, this is just the beginning of our coverage of the artists, the installations, the organizers and more. Stay turned on our blog, our social, our YouTube for in-depth looks at everything going on September 11 – 20.

Right now, we’re handing the rest of this article over to Emily Reynolds who is coordinating this year’s show alongside Emily Tucker and others. Emily Reynolds is also the founder and Director of the Buffalo Institute of Contemporary Art (BICA) which puts out the art review magazine for Western New York and Southern Ontario, Cornelia. Meet her and partner on those projects Nando Alvarez-Perez in this video we made.

Take it away, Emily!

After six-months of few and far between opportunities to see art in person, we’re relieved to have galleries and museums starting to cautiously and carefully reopen, and absolutely thrilled to share that PLAY/GROUND—the immersive art event that has taken place in Medina the last two years—will return in a new format September 11-20.

This year PLAY/GROUND, led by Elisabeth Samuels and Emily Tucker of Resource:Art and Nando Alvarez-Perez and Emily Reynolds of the Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art, will consist of 22 installations, created by artists from Buffalo, Rochester, and all over the country and installed throughout Buffalo, as well as ArtPark to the North, and Graycliff to the South. Most of the installations are free to visit at your leisure, over 9 days.

Julie Henson Proposal Image

Project Highlights

One of this year’s most ambitious projects, created by Yola Monakhov Stockton & Jared Thorne, will consist of a self-guided audio tour of five locations in historically redlined districts in Buffalo. The term redlining is derived  from the manner in which  lenders would literally draw a red line on a map around neighborhoods they would not invest in based on demographics alone. Black inner-city neighborhoods were most likely to be redlined. The artists aim to take a step back so viewers can experience redlining through the embodied action of walking (or biking, riding a bus, or driving) through a neighborhood while listening to stories. This important work will have a physical presence in two locations, at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, and the storefront of future contemporary art gallery K-Art, which will open inside the larger K-Haus later in 2020.

While a majority of this year’s PLAY/GROUND participants are based in Western New York, proposals came from all over North America, with artists from as far away as California accepted. Los Angeles-based artist Julie Henson is sewing a 30-foot sequin screen that will adorn the front of the Burchfield Penney Art Center. At night, a montaged video culled from NFL Super Bowl Halftime shows will project on the sequin screen. Henson’s work explores issues of gender, positions of power, and performance through American icons, movement, costumes, and stage props.

PLAY/GROUND 2020 also includes a memorial installation for the late artist and furniture maker, Jonathan Casey, who passed away in April. Created by a group of anonymous friends, the installation, A Sacred Life, features an urban crop circle made up of 400 plants that flower in the artist’s favorite colors. The installation will be located in an open field across the street from presenting sponsor OSC Manufacturing and is meant to be maintained as a memorial into the future.

Ticketed Performances

While most of the projects are free to experience, two sites have performances which are ticketed.  With respect to audience safety, social distancing, and government guidelines, each performance will have less than 40 tickets available for a given time slot. On Saturday, September 19, artist John Santomeiri will stage Finding Home, a performance where six Buffalo artists across a range of disciplines will perform their ideas of home. This performance will take place at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff, the former home of Isabelle and Darwin Martin.eA very limited number of tickets will allow visitors to watch the performance from inside the home including the second floor balcony. There are even opportunities to leave the performance with a special curated floral arrangement and a bottle of Usonia, a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired wine.

Afternoon Performance: https://findinghomeafternoon.eventbrite.com

Evening Performance: https://findinghomeevening.eventbrite.com

On Sunday, September 20 you can purchase tickets to see and even participate in Mountains, a big-head Puppet performance by Kyla Kegler in the ArtPark Amphitheater. The performance draws on current events and archetypal relationships to utopia and the apocalypse, struggle and triumph, and big feelings. The public is invited to participate in the performance as a member of the socially-distanced big-head-masked movement-choir. If you would like to participate in the performance, you can make your own mask and costume by watching a video tutorial Kegler is providing. https://mountainsartpark.eventbrite.com

How to Go

The main hubs where you will be able to see projects in town are Explore & More Children’s Museum and Canalside; Larkinville; the Burchfield Penney Art Center and Hotel Henry; UB Anderson Gallery; OSC Manufacturing on East Delavan; and a group of three projects downtown on Main Street and Delaware Avenue.

The projects will be open all week, but you can buy maps, merchandise and raffle tickets, and chat with the organizers on Saturdays and Sundays at Canalside, Larkin Square, or outside the Hotel Henry. There is also a pop gallery in Larkinville hosted by the Space on Seneca at 867 Seneca Street, where you can purchase more indoor-sized works made by PLAY/GROUND 2020 artists. Like we said, nothing beats looking at art in person, and looking at it in person in your own home might be the most 2020-proof way to do it.